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MacFixIt Answers

MacFixIt Answers is a feature from MacFixIt where our editors answer questions e-mailed to us by our readers.

MacFixIt Answers is a feature from MacFixIt where our editors answer questions e-mailed to us by our readers. It has been a while since we issued an installment of "MacFixIt Answers," but we hope to bring it around more frequently. This week we have questions on the difference between firmware and software, managing the boot chime volume, and changing the default background in OS X.

Keep writing in with your questions. We look forward to hearing from you!


After the recent update for Apple Keyboards, MacFixIt reader "Jm" asks:

"Please highlight the difference between a software update vs. a firmware update."


Both are software; however, firmware is a low-level form of software that is stored in the computer's components (graphics card, hard drive, keyboard, etc.) that manage features of the device itself (in large part the overall efficiency of the device), and interface with the software that resides in the operating system. The key difference is that the firmware stays with the hardware and is run by it, regardless of the software being used. A good example is when you are booting two operating systems. If you update the firmware on your graphics card, that firmware will be run by the graphics card regardless of whether you are loading "software" drivers from Windows, or "software" drivers from OS X.

There are a few exceptions to this, where devices will load firmware stored in a driver when the computer is booted; however, this is not usually how firmware is managed.


MacFixIt reader "JoAnne" asks:

"When I first boot up a very loud 'ta da' comes out. I find this very annoying and can find no way to turn it down. My wife's computer used to do this also, but no longer does. She says she turned down something but doesn't remember what. We have both searched with no answer."


The boot chimes cannot be turned off through any normal setting that Apple provides in OS X; however, they can be silenced by using third-party utilities. One that has been rather popular is the utility "StartupSound" which runs as a preference pane. This may be the setting you remember having accessed previously. Download it and install it, and see if it helps your situation (keep in mind it is a beta package):


MacFixIt reader "John" asks:

"Thanks for the advice on desktop devices. I have a similar question about how I would chance the 'desktop image' for when the computer is waking up after having gone to sleep. It is a hideous red, blue, and purple burst effect and I would be happy with just about anything else. Do you have any advice on how I can change that?"


The default image definitely seems to appeal to folks in a hit-or-miss manner. The image is located in the /Macintosh HD/System/Library/CoreServices/ folder, and is called "DefaultDesktop.jpg". It is a 2,560x1,600 JPEG image so it will be sure to cover most common resolutions without becoming pixelated, and you can replace it with any picture you like. For a solid color, you can replace it with an image of any size (even 1x1 pixels) and the computer will stretch the image to cover the full desktop in that color. If you choose to use a picture, the resolution may matter a bit more.

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